Why Go to Rehab?


Why go to rehab? The easy answer is, “to get better.” But addiction is a tricky business. Many can manage to either reduce their level of use or play another trick that gives the feeling of gaining ground. Addicts are notoriously good at denial.

For Someone Else

One reason rehab becomes attractive is to demonstrate to someone else how serious we are about quitting. Although addiction specialists will tell you that “you have to do it for you,” in practice, many go to save a relationship or show a willingness to change their ways. It might be a last ditch effort to stave off a divorce. It may be to convince a judge you’ve finally decided to act like a mature human being. It might be an effort to keep your kids, or your job.

All of these can be strong motivators, but they come with a risk. Trying to save parts of your current life while abandoning just that part (addiction) that’s toxic is tough. In many cases, the addiction is fed by stresses and failures in other areas of life. A drug or the bottle becomes an escape. Leaving other issues unresolved may be a ticket to taking up the unwanted behavior again.

To Get “Fixed”

Those who’ve never been to rehab sometimes think it’s like going in for surgery or a medical treatment – in and out, and all better. They assume rehab is like what is reported for celebrities who “get cleaned up.” That’s how the media sometimes portrays it, with a large Clean and Sober! headline.

The truth is that while there are many types of addiction, rehab uses the same set of tools for each. Addicts can use these tools to get better, not healed so much as more capable. Each person has to make use of the tools though. The separation from “normal” life and its temptations helps. The information provided and the counseling help. But each person has to take the tools offered and apply them to their own selves. It takes work.

Rehab is more like physical therapy than like a quickie medical procedure. One patient refuses to give up, works hard, takes medical advice… and is able to walk again. Another goes in with the idea that they will passively allow the therapist to do the work for them. They participate minimally and play the role of the person to whom things are done, not the doer. This second patient will show little, if any, improvement.

To Become a Better Addict

Addiction sucks. It sucks in a lot of ways and generates a huge pile of misery. But there was a reason why drugs or alcohol first appealed. Many addicts don’t really want to give up the substance that holds them in its sway. They really just want to learn how to manage their addiction just enough to minimize problems, but still intend to use.

People who go to rehab with this in mind will show some improvement, but quickly slip back into the lifestyle they had before. One cannot say that rehab is useless for them because the story doesn’t end with the first failure. It may even be a necessary part of future healing. After experiencing how compromise doesn’t work, they may gain a new perspective and a better attitude.

For Me

Rehab represents a change to change your life. When it clicks and we realize we do need professional help, it’s usually because of the obvious problems we have in these areas:

Relationships -- when we realize what a poor partner or parent we have become – that the problem isn’t with the other party, it’s our problem.

Finances and Family -- when we understand the toll that our behavior is taking on our immediate family. Too often, this involves betrayal or violence. The critical thing is recognizing we are causing the difficulties.

Health -- at some point in any addiction, the health consequences begin to emerge. When it is obvious just how physically toxic the addiction is, we may realize how we are committing slow suicide.

Happiness -- addiction steals the joy from life and takes away any feeling of pleasure in our accomplishments. Rehab offers a chance to reengage with our own life and recover the simple ability to be happy.

Mental Health -- while not often stated in these terms, addiction makes us crazy. Insanity is a part of the endless cycle of craving, then seeking, then getting, then using, then the wearing off until the craving returns. It becomes a torturous way to live.

Ultimately, the “for me” is the reason that treatment specialists will try to access. Why? Because, while we can lie to others and try to keep things on track, we eventually can no longer lie to ourselves.


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